Netanyahu, Gantz: Do the Honorable Thing

(Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

If Binyamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, respectively Israel’s Prime Minister and alternate Prime Minister, had the country’s best interests in mind they would call a press conference and announce new elections.

“The emergency unity government we set up six months ago to tackle the coronavirus crisis hasn’t worked out as expected, and so we’ve decided to return our mandate to you, the voter, so that you can choose a government that will perform to your satisfaction,” they would say.

Instead, Netanyahu and Gantz are doing what’s good for them, personally and politically, at the expense of the country. Gantz, who also serves as defense minister, announced last week the formation of an inquiry commission to probe the purchase of submarines for the Navy.

Questions have been raised as to why so many submarines were ordered from Germany’s Thyssenkrupp conglomerate, and some people connected to Netanyahu have been charged with wrongdoing. However, Netanyahu himself, after an exhaustive police investigation, was cleared.

What is the purpose, therefore, of setting up such a committee — especially considering that Gantz himself said only a month ago that it was unnecessary? First, to pressure Netanyahu, to show him that the Blue and White leader, political novice though he may be, can play hardball. Second, to be able to release a report on the eve of the coming elections proving that Netanyahu is Mr. Security in name only.

The report, whose results are a foregone conclusion, will state that the normal decision-making channels were bypassed, resulting in the waste of billions of shekels that could have gone for vital needs. There will also be hints of criminal activity (or at least some moral failings) thrown in for good measure.

Netanyahu is undoubtedly right when he says that Gantz is politicizing the Defense Ministry and wasting defense funds to advance his personal agenda. Shas leader Aryeh Deri, a veteran of many governments, called Gantz’s move an unprecedented crossing of a red line.

However, Netanyahu is the last person to complain about such behavior.

He has scandalously delayed passage of a state budget in order to advance his political interests. At a time when the country is in desperate need of an updated budget to meet unprecedented economic, educational and health challenges, Netanyahu has played political games in a bid to ensure that Gantz never becomes Prime Minister, as promised under the coalition agreement.

Throughout his career, he has made important decisions — including those related to the appointments of qualified people to key positions — based on political considerations or personal peeve. That doesn’t justify Gantz’s actions, but questions Netanyahu’s right to complain about them.

One way or another, elections will be called in the coming months. If a budget isn’t passed by Dec. 23, they will be called automatically. If one is, there will be many other “red lines” for either party to cross, leaving elections as the only option.

For the sake of the country, and the little civil discourse that remains, the two leaders should do the honorable thing and put this government out of its misery by announcing elections now.